ISLAMABAD, Dec 3: The Pakistan International Airlines bemoaned in the Supreme Court on Monday that the unilateral grant of liberal traffic rights to foreign airlines was one of the reasons for the national flag carrier’s decline.
A day before the hearing of a case relating to rampant corruption in PIA, its management submitted a report to the court highlighting the airline’s history, issues affecting profitable operations and the reasons for its continued downward slide.
It said Pakistan had become a lifeline for foreign carriers, mainly from the Gulf region, which were sucking away the resources of Pakistan (Pakistani passengers). “Precious exchange is being drained and the airline of Pakistan is the ultimate loser.”
The report regretted that foreign airlines had been increasing their capacity on Pakistan routes because of the facility of liberal traffic rights. Successive governments have allowed foreign airlines to fly to and out of the country without offering any reciprocal rights to PIA to fly to their countries.
As the rightful revenues of PIA were taken away by the ambitious airlines of oil-rich countries, PIA was unable to invest in new aeroplanes, it said, adding that no aircraft was inducted into its fleet from 1992 to 2002. This was the period when the airline started incurring losses.
The report said PIA had lost as many as seven million potential passengers to other airlines on the US and UK routes between 2009 and 2012 because of the unilateral liberal traffic rights given to foreign carriers. The rights were given despite the fact that PIA was operating direct flights to the two destinations. “This decision alone robbed PIA of more than Rs150 billion in three years.”
NO RECIPROCITY: The report regretted that while Pakistan had been liberal in granting traffic rights, advanced nations like Japan, South Korea, Canada, Ireland, France, South Africa, Hong Kong and Qatar had not given the same facility to PIA in order to protect their own economies and airlines.
During the 1980s, PIA used to operate 45 international destinations, but now the number had come down to 37, the report said.
It added that over the years many airlines had ceased their operation through Pakistani soil, mainly because of the law and order situation in this country and the global recession.
“Non-availability of lucrative business opportunities for travellers led to reduction in the number of airlines operating in Pakistan to less than a dozen, of which PIA is providing ground handling services to only five airlines,” it said.
Although PIA’s revenue stood at Rs 9 billion last year, it was offset by a burden of Rs 39.68bn brought on by an increase in fuel cost, salary and wages, flight equipment rentals, exchange loss, administrative expenses, taxation impact, etc.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Shiekh Azmat Saeed will take up the case on Tuesday on applications moved by the Transparency International and PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Marvi Memon, a leader of the same party.
Already in the headlines for all wrong reasons, PIA again came under the flak on Monday when counsel Khalid Anwar requested the court to take a suo motu notice of the pathetic state of affairs in the airline.
The request was made against the backdrop of Sunday’s incident when an Islamabad-bound PIA aircraft developed fault in one of its engines and was stuck at the Karachi airport for hours. The chief justice and some federal ministers were among the passengers.
“I usually travel by PIA and whenever I step inside the aircraft I become nervous,” the counsel said, adding that maintenance of aircraft was not up to the mark.
But the chief justice told him that the court was already seized with a case pertaining to the national flag carrier.